Things that make you go "hmm..."

New disclaimer on Terry Goodkind's official website. . .

Proceed with caution indeed. . .  Gotta love the Yeard!!! :P

Fevre Dream

Steamboats and vampires. . . I have to admit that I've always been intrigued by George R. R. Martin's Fevre Dream. So when Bantam Books released a new mass market edition of GRRM's early novel, I decided that it was time to give this work a shot. And I'm sure glad I did, for Fevre Dream is an original and engrossing read!

Here's the blurb:

Abner Marsh, a struggling riverboat captain, suspects that something’s amiss when he is approached by a wealthy aristocrat with a lucrative offer. The hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet; nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment in a decade. York’s reasons for traversing the powerful Mississippi are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious York’s actions may prove. Not until the maiden voyage of Fevre Dream does Marsh realize that he has joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare—and humankind’s most impossible dream.

As always, Martin excels at creating a genuine and realistic setting. His vivid prose brings the reader back to the Mississippi river runs of the 1800s. The narrative is filled with a wealth of historical details from that period, and the author's love for steamboats adds another dimension to the tale. Inventive, Fevre Dream also offers an explanation regarding vampirism that sets this work apart from all the other vampire novels on the market. All of this put together makes for interesting and original worldbuilding. Indeed, in terms of style, Fevre Dream is quite unique.

As is usually his wont, GRRM's characterization is "top notch" and he created another cast of fascinating protagonists. Most of the POV sections are split between chapters in which we witness events taking place through the eyes of Abner Marsh and the despicable Sour Billy Tipton. Although these two characters are far from likeable, both men grow on you as the story progresses. Understandably, the mysterious Joshua York and Damon Julian are the most captivating protagonists of this book. It will come as no surprise that GRRM has a few surprises up his sleeve. Indeed, the author's different take on vampirism allows him to keep readers on their toes.

The pace is fluid throughout, which makes Fevre Dream a page-turner. George R. R. Martin sure knows how to capture your imagination and suck you into a tale, and Fevre Dream is no different in that regard. The more you read, the more you want to know what happens next. Choosing that particular historical period as a backdrop for the story gives Fevre Dream its unique flavor. Add to that a few chilling and disturbing scenes, as well as superior characterization, and you have something special.

I know that most fans would prefer to get their hands on The Winds of Winter instead of this or any other work by George R. R. Martin. Still, Fevre Dream is a fresh and imaginative read that showcases the length and breadth of the author's talent. It has aged rather well, and at no time does it feel that you are reading a novel that was initially published thirty years ago.

If, like me, the premise has piqued your curiosity, do give GRRM's Fevre Dream a shot. You won't be disappointed!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Star Wars flashdrives

Want one!!!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Catherynne M. Valente's award-winning novella Silently and Very Fast for 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Fantastist Catherynne M. Valente takes on the folklore of artificial intelligence in this brand new, original novella of technology, identity, and an uncertain mechanized future. Neva is dreaming. But she is not alone. A mysterious machine entity called Elefsis haunts her and the members of her family, back through the generations to her great-great grandmother-a gifted computer programmer who changed the world. Together Neva and Elefsis navigate their history and their future, an uneasy, unwilling symbiote. But what they discover in their dreamworld might change them forever. . .

Silently and Very Fast was the winner of the 2012 Locus Award for Best Novella. It was also a2011 Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novella, a 2012 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella, as well as a 2012 Sturgeon Award Finalist.

New George R. R. Martin interviews

The first is an interview with British television personality and journalist Grace Dent, while the second one is from the webcast Sword and Laser.

New Robin Hobb interview

There is a new interview with Robin Hobb, who recently published City of Dragons (Canada, USA, Europe), on SciFiNow.

Here's a teaser:

The rate at which you publish novels is impressive; is it out of an obligation to your readers to work at this pace or something else?

I sign a contract for each book, and I try to keep my word. It’s a balancing act between being creative and keeping my word to my editor. I know that when I’m late, I throw a monkey wrench into a lot of peoples’ lives and work days, so I try not to do that. Sometimes I’ve been late, however, and sometimes I’ve been VERY late. And often it had been Herculean editorial effort that has concealed that from the readership. I appreciate that, and I try not to abuse it. I do know this about myself. If I dismissed deadlines as optional, I’d never finish a book. I always want to do one more re-write, to add one more scene or tack just a few more chapters onto the end of the tale. I would happily revise forever and never turn the book in. So by telling myself that I must make that deadline and focusing on it, I actually manage to finish the book.

Follow this link to read the full interview.

Mother Jones Westeros ads

Speaking of the HBO Game of Thrones TV series, these Westeros ads from Mother Jones are quite funny!

Game of Thrones: Season 3

This from Westeros:

Here’s the press release:

Season 3 of Game of Thrones will start production in early July. The production continues to be based in Belfast, Northern Ireland and will shoot in Belfast and other Northern Ireland locations. Additionally, it is confirmed that Game of Thrones will return once again to Croatia and Iceland for additional production. This season, a fourth location, Morocco, will be added to the schedule.

The following directors have been set for Season 3. They are: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, Alex Graves, Michelle MacLaren, Dan Minahan, David Nutter and Alik Sakharov. Writers returning for this season are: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, George R.R. Martin and Vanessa Taylor.

Casting is underway and will be announced soon.

Based on the bestselling fantasy book series by George R.R. Martin, GAME OF THRONES is an epic drama set in the world of Westeros, where ambitious men and women of both honor and ill-repute live in a land whose summers and winters can last years. The Emmy®- and Golden Globe-winning fantasy series aired its ten-episode second season Sunday, April 1-June 3, 2012.

Can't wait for next spring!!! The Red Wedding. . .

"What Doctor Gottlieb Saw" by Ian Tregillis

As you know, as things stand Ian Tregillis' The Coldest War is my favorite speculative fiction novel of the year. Sadly, however, it often feels as though very few people have given the excellent Bitter Seeds a shot. =(

Recent discussions about The Coldest War made me recall that there is a free short story featuring the enigmatic Gretel available online. It's titled "What Doctor Gottlieb Saw" and it shows just how devious Gretel can be.

And it starts like this: “Do you suppose it’s possible to murder God?”

Follow this link if you wish to read Ian Tregillis' "What Doctor Gottlieb Saw."

If you enjoy the short story, do give Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War a go. Both are great reads!

Daniel Abraham contest winners!

Thanks to the kind folks at Orbit, our two winners will receive complimentary copies of Daniel Abraham's The King's Blood. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- David Kemp, from Flower Mound, Texas, USA

- Kevin Faulk, from Santa Clara, California, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

New cover art for Tad Williams' THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN

Not sure if this is the UK cover art or if they changed the US cover, but it's pretty sweet! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Bobby Dollar would like to know what he was like when he was alive, but too much of his time is spent working as an extremely minor functionary in the heavenly host judging recently departed souls.

Until the day a soul goes missing, presumed stolen by ‘the other side’.

A new chapter in the war between heaven and hell is about to open. And Bobby is right in the middle of it, with only a desirable but deadly demon to aid him

Provisional speculative fiction Top 5 of 2012

Well, we've almost reached the halfway point of the year, so once again it's time for my provisional speculative fiction Top 5 of 2012!

1- Ian Tregillis' The Coldest War (Canada, USA, Europe)

2- Paul Kearney's Kings of the Morning (Canada, USA, Europe)

3- Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Straits of Galahesh (Canada, USA, Europe)

4- Myke Cole's Shadow Ops: Control Point (Canada, USA, Europe)

5- C. S. Friedman's Dominion (Download it here)

If you don't agree with me, then you don't know shit! :P

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Brandon Sanderson's LEGION

Since my early review of Brandon Sanderson's upcoming novella Legion generated a lot of interest, I'm giving away my ARC to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, and the Subterranean Press website.

Here's the blurb:

Brandon Sanderson is one of the most significant fantasists to enter the field in a good many years. His ambitious, multi-volume epics (Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive) and his stellar continuation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series have earned both critical acclaim and a substantial popular following. In Legion, a distinctly contemporary novella filled with suspense, humor, and an endless flow of invention, Sanderson reveals a startling new facet of his singular narrative talent.

Stephen Leeds, AKA “Legion,” is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the story begins, Leeds and his “aspects” are drawn into the search for the missing Balubal Razon, inventor of a camera whose astonishing properties could alter our understanding of human history and change the very structure of society. The action ranges from the familiar environs of America to the ancient, divided city of Jerusalem. Along the way, Sanderson touches on a formidable assortment of complex questions: the nature of time, the mysteries of the human mind, the potential uses of technology, and the volatile connection between politics and faith. Resonant, intelligent, and thoroughly absorbing, Legion is a provocative entertainment from a writer of great originality and seemingly limitless gifts.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "LEGION." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

As you know, I loved Kameron Hurley's God's War and you can now download the digital edition for 7.99$ instead of the 14.99$ cover price here.

Here's the blurb:

Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn't make any difference...

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there's one thing everybody agrees on--

There's not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war--but at what price?

The world is about to find out

Extract from Carrie Vaughn's KITTY STEALS THE SHOW

You should know by now that I'm a big Kitty Norville fan! And thanks to Carrie Vaughn, here's an excerpt from the upcoming Kitty Steals the Show! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Kitty has been tapped as the keynote speaker for the First International Conference on Paranatural Studies, taking place in London. The conference brings together scientists, activists, protestors, and supernatural beings from all over the world—and Kitty, Ben, and Cormac are right in the middle of it.

Master vampires from dozens of cities have also gathered in London for a conference of their own. With the help of the Master of London, Kitty gets more of a glimpse into the Long Game—a power struggle among vampires that has been going on for centuries—than she ever has before. In her search for answers, Kitty has the help of some old allies, and meets some new ones, such as Caleb, the alpha werewolf of the British Isles. The conference has also attracted some old enemies, who’ve set their sights on her and her friends.

All the world’s a stage, and Kitty’s just stepped into the spotlight.


A few days later found me deeply embroiled in the act of making my living.

I was trying to do meaty on the show tonight. Meaty was good. And not just rare steaks or fresh kill for the Wolf. Meat--real topical substance--gave me credibility. Sometimes, it even gave me answers.

"All right, we're back from the break and station ID. This is Kitty Norville and The Midnight Hour coming to you from KNOB in Denver, Colorado. Unlike next week when I'll be pre-recording a show for you in London, England, where I'll be attending the First International Conference on Paranatural Studies. This will be the first time that scientists, academics, policy makers and pundits like me from all over the world will gather to discuss the topics that are so near and dear to my heart: vampires, werewolves, magic, what science has to say about it, what's their place in the world. As you know I'm a werewolf and have a vested interest in some of those answers. I'm hoping to line up some really slam-bang interviews, because when else am I going to have this many victims all in one place? In case you haven't figured it out, I'm very excited about the trip.

"Now I want to hear from you--once I get these scientists and diplomats where I want them, what questions should I ask? What would you want to learn at the conference? The lines are open." I checked the monitor and hit a line at random. "Hello, you're on the air."

"I want to know if it's true that vampires are going to lobby for a seat at the United Nations." The caller was male and enthusiastic, a fast talker.

"Where did you hear that?" I asked.

"On the Internet," he said, with a tone of duh.

"I'll certainly keep my highly sensitive ears open for rumors on that topic, but I don't think it's a real possibility, because I don't think vampires have any interest in deferring to human authority on anything. They've got their own systems of organization and haven't felt much of a need to take part in ours over the centuries. At least that's my impression. Next call, please. Hello, talk to me."

"Hi, Kitty, thanks for taking my call!" The woman sounded bubbly and nice. Maybe she wouldn't be crazy. "I was wondering, do you think you could give us a sneak preview of your keynote address for the conference?"

Well, no, because I hadn't written it yet, but I wasn't going to admit that. "I'm afraid I'm keeping that firmly under wraps until I actually give the speech. More fun that way, don't you think?"

"Well, I can't wait to hear it!"

Neither could I. . . "Thank you. I'm going to take another call now." I punched another line, glancing at the screener info on the monitor. "Jane from Houston, what's your question?"

"Hi Kitty, big fan here, thanks for taking my call. I've been listening to you for years and you've been talking around these questions that whole time. For all the so-called scientists you've interviewed and research you've talked about, nobody seems to have any answers. I have to tell you, I'm shocked there's even anything like a conference happening. Does that mean there are finally going to be some answers? Have scientists finally been able to figure out where vampires and lycanthropes came from? Are they actually going to tell us it's a mutation or a disease?" She sounded genuinely frustrated.

I said, "Science isn't like an Internet search. You don't just stick a question in one end of a machine and have the answer pop out the other side. I don't see the conference as a sign that scientists have finally found answers so much as it's proof that there's now a critical mass of researchers even asking these questions, that they can benefit from this kind of gathering."

"Or maybe the conference is so they can get their stories straight about the cover-up."

"Excuse me?" I said. I heard a new one every show, it seemed like.

"You don't really think anybody actually wants answers, do you?" my caller said brusquely. Here was someone so wrapped up in her conspiracy-laden worldview that the truth was obvious to her. "These 'researchers' are only pretending to be researching anything. They can keep putting out half-baked theories forever. In the meantime, anything they discover they can keep to themselves and use against the rest of us."

"Anything like what?" I said, truly curious.

"The secrets of mind control, of immortality. The rest is a smoke screen. That's what they're looking for, and they're not going to tell the rest of us when they find it. They don't even care about the real questions, like where we came from."

We--she was some brand of lycanthrope, I guessed. Vampires didn't tend to get this intense about anything--they were used to sitting back and watching events take their course. Whatever she was, she was feeling lost and helpless in a world gone out of control. I could understand her position.

"I know some of these scientists personally," I said in what I hoped was a soothing voice. "Most of them are more worried about their funding than about taking part in any kind of cover up. But I'll tell you what--I'll ask as many people as many questions as I can about the origins of vampires and lycanthropes. I'll bring the answers back to the show. How does that sound?"

"You say that now, but they'll rope you in," she said, as if I'd already personally betrayed her. "They'll get to you, threaten you or bribe you, and then you'll be in on it, too. Just watch."

"So little faith," I said, put out. If she could act like she'd been betrayed, I could act offended. "You said it yourself, I've been doing this for years, and no one's stopped me yet. I don't see this conference changing that, no matter how weird things get. Moving on."

I clicked off Jane's call and punched up the next. The caller didn't waste time with so much as a hello.

"There's no mystery where you all come from," said a flat male voice. "It's not even a question."

"Oh? And where do we come from?"

"The devil! You're all from the devil!"

I fielded one of these calls about every fourth show. The fanatics had learned to say what they needed to say to scam the screening process, and when they finally got on the air they'd give The Speech--the supernatural was the spawn of Satan and the world was racing toward Armageddon on our backs. Blah blah blah. Sometimes, we'd let the calls through on purpose, because the best way to counter these jokers was to let them keep talking.

"You can dress it up in all that science double-talk, but science is the devil's tool! This conference is another sign of the End Times, the new world order. There's a reason it's called the number of the beast. That's the best thing about this, once you're there you'll all be stamped with the number, so the rest of us can see you, and you won't be able to hide anymore."

I leaned into the microphone and used my sultry voice. "I wasn't aware I'd been hiding."

"There's a war coming, a real war! You may sound all nice and sweet, you may have brainwashed thousands of people, but it's a disguise, a deception, and when the trumpet sounds, Lucifer will call his own to him, even you."

"I like to think I'll be judged by my deeds rather than what some crazy person says about me."

"All your good deeds are a trick to hide your true nature. I've listened to you, I know!"

"So what does that make you? A media consumer of the beast?"

The caller hung up before I did, which was a pretty good trick. The game of "who gets the last word" meant that no matter how badly I mocked them, no matter how agitated they got, they kept on the line, thinking I'd somehow, eventually, admit that they were right. They always seemed to think that they were different than the last guy I hung up on. Suckers.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: if I'm the spawn of Satan someone sure forgot to tell me about it. And I believe we time for one more call. Hello, you're on."

"Uh, hi, Kitty. Thanks." He was male, laid back. He sounded kind of stoned, actually.

"You have a question or comment?"

"Yeah. So, this thing's in London, right? You're going to London?"

"I think that's what I've said about a dozen times over the last hour in a shameless bid for self-promotion."

"Right." He sniggered, like he was suppressing giggles. "So, that'll make you"--more sniggering--"An American werewolf in--"

I cut him off. "I'm sorry, I seem to have lost that call. And I'd better not hear any Warren Zevon references, either. Sheesh, people. Let's break for station ID."

I had a feeling I was going to be hearing a lot of cracks like that over the next few weeks, I didn't need to start now.

Snow Crash

Given all the rave reviews Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash has received over the years, it's a wonder that the book has been sitting there on my shelf for well over a decade now. I was getting more and more concerned with each passing year, for this work kept receiving such accolades that it raised my expectations to what I felt was an impossible level. I mean, a science fiction novel being selected as one of the 100 books to read in English by Time Magazine? It reached the point where Snow Crash had to be one of the very best books I had ever read, if not the very best, if it had any chance of meeting those lofty expectations.

Understandably, although it is an ambitious, intelligent, and entertaining novel, Snow Crash couldn't possibly live up to my expectations. It is a fun and thrilling read, no question. And yet, as much as I enjoyed it, I don't feel that it's the sort of literary work that lingers within your mind long after you have finished it.

Here's the blurb:

One of Time magazine's 100 all-time best English-language novels.

Only once in a great while does a writer come along who defies comparison—a writer so original he redefines the way we look at the world. Neal Stephenson is such a writer and Snow Crash is such a novel, weaving virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility to bring us the gigathriller of the information age.

In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse. Snow Crash is a mind-altering romp through a future America so bizarre, so outrageous…you’ll recognize it immediately.

The worldbuilding is simply awesome. In a not-so-distant future, the USA has become a fragmented ensembles of smaller Burbclaves and city-states. As is usually the author's wont, the witty narrative is full of satiric social and political commentary. What's even more brilliant is the fact that Snow Crash was written between 1988 and 1991. To realize just how on the money Stephenson turned out to be regarding the information age and virtual reality, it's simply astonishing. The same thing goes for the technology now in use, both in terms of software and hardware. Truly, Neal Stephenson was a visionary.

The characterization is well-done, especially considering that having teenagers as your principal protagonists can sometimes be quite tricky. Yet both Hiro Protagonist, the Deliverator and katana-wielding hacker, and Y.T., a pesky Kourier, are well-defined characters you just have to root for. When Hiro is involved in an accident and is about to be late delivering a pizza, Y.T. delivers the pie on time, thus earning a favor from the Mafia and joining her fate to Hiro's, though none of them are quite aware of that fact just yet. Although the narrative follows the POVs of these two protagonists for the better part of the book, they are joined by a colorful cast of secondary characters that give Snow Crash its unforgettable flavor. Chief among those include Uncle Enzo, the Librarian, and Raven.

The pace is fluid and the chapters relatively short, making this novel a real page-turner. Indeed, there is never a dull moment. The early portions about the Sumerian myths and their importance are a bit more nebulous and hard to understand, but everything is explained later on in the book. Hence, for a while at least, you are sort of left in the dark as to what this new computer virus is all about. Be that as it may, you just need to buckle up and enjoy the ride. From beginning to end, Snow Crash remains a dense and surreal work of fiction full of humor that will make you think as much as it makes you laugh.

As I mentioned, what is even more impressive is the fact that this novel was initially published two decades ago. Discovering just how right Stephenson was concerning everything that has to do with the information age and virtual reality will have you shaking your head in bewilderment.

Snow Crash is a smart, cool, funny, witty, and action-packed adventure featuring a pair of unlikely heroes who must save the world from infocalypse. If you enjoy roller-coaster rides, Snow Crash is definitely for you! You will never again look at toilet paper quite the same way afterwards. . .

If, like me, you haven't read it yet, Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash could be perfect vacation reading material for you.

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

US cover art for Ian Tregillis' NECESSARY EVIL


Are you kidding me??? Even Baen could do better than that. . .

Do Tor Books really want Tregillis to sell any books or what?

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download K. J. Parker's The Hammer for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The colony was founded seventy years ago. The plan was originally to mine silver, but there turned out not to be any.

Now an uneasy peace exists on the island, between the colonists and the once-noble met'Oc, a family in exile on a remote stronghold for their role in a vaguely remembered civil war. The met'Oc are tolerated, in spite of occasional cattle stealing raids, since they alone possess the weapons considered necessary protection in the event of the island's savages becoming hostile.

Intelligent, resourceful, and determined, Gignomai is the youngest brother in the current generation of met'Oc. He is about to realise exactly what is expected of him; and what it means to defy his family.

HBO and the producers respond to the Game of Thrones controversy

This from Westeros:

A sudden and perhaps not unexpected flurry of media interest in a passing DVD commentary remark made by executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss—that’d be for the Bluray and DVD released back in March—has led to a response from both HBO and Benioff & Weiss.

As those who’ve sat through the commentaries know, Weiss and Benioff pointed out that one of the heads on spikes in a season 1 scene featuring Joffrey and Sansa was in fact a repurposed prop head that appears to have been modelled after George W. Bush. In the commentary, they noted it was not a political statement, merely the result of having to work with the heads they have around (prosthetic heads are quite expensive to make—so much so that the idea that George R.R. Martin could get his cameo as one of the severed heads was nixed when they revealed to him how much it would cost to get a custom prop head made).

That is, apparently, not good enough for Craig Eaton, head of the Brooklyn Republican Part. According to the Daily Mail, Eaton—who doesn’t actually watch the show—has called for a boycott, likening the revelation that one of the heads was that of former President Bush to weakening the United States in the eyes of the world.

In the early Pacific evening, the following statement went out from Benioff and Weiss:

We use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc. We can’t afford to have these all made from scratch, especially in scenes where we need a lot of them, so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush.

In the DVD commentary, we mentioned this, though we should not have. We meant no disrespect to the former President and apologize if anything we said or did suggested otherwise.

And from HBO, in the same release:

We were deeply dismayed to see this and find it unacceptable, disrespectful and in very bad taste. We made this clear to the executive producers of the series who apologized immediately for this inadvertent careless mistake. We are sorry this happened and will have it removed from any future DVD production.

Glen Cook contest winner!

Thanks to generosity of the folks at Subterranean Press, our winner will receive a copy of the limited edition of Glen Cook's Winter's Dream.For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and Subpress.

The winner is:

Alireza Morshedian, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

The Coldest War

Having thoroughly enjoyed Bitter Seeds, I was shocked when I learned of Tor Books' major screw-up which prevented this second volume from being published in 2011, as it was originally scheduled. The author has expressed some concern on the matter, fearing that readers might not think The Coldest War was worth the long wait.

Well, let me set everyone's mind at ease. Ian Tregillis wrote an awesome sequel to a great debut. Indeed, this one was a doozy! And as things stand, in this house at least, The Coldest War is the very best speculative fiction title of the year!

Here's the blurb:

In Ian Tregillis' The Coldest War, a precarious balance of power maintains the peace between Britain and the USSR. For decades, Britain's warlocks have been all that stands between the British Empire and the Soviet Union—a vast domain stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the English Channel. Now each wizard's death is another blow to Britain's national security.

Meanwhile, a brother and sister escape from a top-secret facility deep behind the Iron Curtain. Once subjects of a twisted Nazi experiment to imbue ordinary people with superhuman abilities, then prisoners of war in the immense Soviet research effort to reverse-engineer the Nazi technology, they head for England.

Because that's where former spy Raybould Marsh lives. And Gretel, the mad seer, has plans for him.

As Marsh is once again drawn into the world of Milkweed, he discovers that Britain's darkest acts didn't end with the war. And while he strives to protect queen and country, he is forced to confront his own willingness to accept victory at any cost.

The action occurs in the spring of 1963, in the middle of the Cold War. The USSR now controls the entirety of Europe and most of the Asian continent all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The only thing that prevents Great Britain from falling under the Soviet yoke is the generation of warlocks that saved the British Empire during WWII, and they are slowly and inexorably getting mysteriously murdered. Trouble is, the Soviets have spent the last two decades researching and reverse-engineering von Westarp's technology to create their own breed of superhumans. Once they put these super soldiers on the field, everyone knows that nothing will stand against them and the entire world might be conquered by the USSR.

Bitter Seeds was a paranormal alternate history yarn in which Tregillis tinkered with the history of WWII and its genesis. With The Coldest War, he does the same with the Cold War that followed the second World War. The author has an eye for historical details, and once again his prose his evocative. I also enjoyed the political and social ramifications of a Soviet-dominated Europe.

Although there are a few minor POV characters, once more we witness events unfolding through the eyes of the same three principal protagonists: Raybould Marsh, Klaus, and William Beauclerk. As was the case in Bitter Seeds, there is a nice balance between the three POVs. The last two decades have not been kind to Marsh, who has become a shell of a man and whose marriage is falling apart. He gave everything he had to Operation Milkweed, yet the end of WWII did not bring the happiness he so longed for. Klaus, who has spend over twenty years in top secret Soviet research and military facilities with his sister, is no longer the weapon he used to be. Only William, who got kicked out of the operation before the end of the war, enjoys a better life and has finally found love. But this happiness also comes at a price, one that may well break him. Seeing how these characters have changed and evolved over the years demonstrated that Ian Tregillis has a knack for good characterization.

And yet, it doesn't matter just how much character growth there is or how well-defined the protagonists turned out to be. For as was the case with its predecessor, it's Gretel who steals the show every time she appears in The Coldest War. This gypsy-born German seer is one of the most fascinating characters I have ever come across. In Bitter Seeds, we were offered a few glimpses of a master plan only Gretel seemed to be aware of. Well, in retrospect, by reading this second volume you realize just how much ground work she was laying down for what would follow. Simply put, it's at times incredible. I found myself shaking my head in wonder on several occasions.

In terms of time frame, The Coldest War is not as sprawling a novel as Tregillis' debut was. The events chronicled within its pages cover only a period of about six weeks, with the bulk of the action taking place in London. Which means that the pace is fluid throughout, with never a dull moment bogging down the narrative.

Intelligent, thought-provoking, inventive, and engrossing, The Coldest War is the kind of work that totally satisfies you and makes you beg for more. I will certainly be lining up to read the final volume, Necessary Evil.

Ian Tregillis did not only write a worthy sequel to Bitter Seeds, he also raised the bar higher and came up with an awesome ending that set the stage for what should be a memorable finale.

The Coldest War is definitely one of the speculative fiction novels to read this year, and as such it deserves the highest possible recommendation.

The final verdict: 9/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Tad Williams contest winner!

Our lucky winner will get his hands on a copy of the limited edition of Tad Williams' A Stark and Wormy Knight, compliments of the folks at Subterranean Press. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and Subpress.

The winner is:

Brandon Kaya, from Richfield, Minnesota, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Quote of the Day

There are two this time:

The other girl is a Brandy. Her date is a Clint. Brandy and Clint are both popular, off-the-shelf models. When white-trash high school girls are going on a date in the Metaverse, they invariably run down to the computer games section of the local Wal-Mart and buy a copy of Brandy. The user can select three breast sizes: improbable, impossible, and ludicrous. Brandy has a limited repertoire of facial expressions: cute and pouty; cute and sultry; perky and interested; smiling and receptive; cute and spacy. Her eyelashes are half an inch long, and the software is so cheap that they are rendered as solid ebony chips. When Brandy flutters her eyelashes, you can almost feel the breeze.

Clint is just the male counterpart of Brandy. He is craggy and handsome and has an extremely limited range of facial expressions.


You are hereby warned that any movement on your part not explicitly endorsed by verbal authorization on my part may pose a direct physical risk to you, as well as consequential psychological and possibly, depending on your personal belief system, spiritual risks ensuing from your personal reaction to said physical risk. Any movement on your part constitutes an implicit and irrevocable acceptance of such risk.

- NEAL STEPHENSON, Snow Crash (Canada, USA, Europe)

I had forgotten how much fun it can be to read anything by Stephenson! ;-)

Teaser extract from Tad Williams' THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN

Thanks to Tad Williams, his lovely wife Deborah, and the nice folks at Daw Books, here's a little teaser extract from the forthcoming The Dirty Streets of Heaven. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Bobby Dollar would like to know what he was like when he was alive, but too much of his time is spent working as an extremely minor functionary in the heavenly host judging recently departed souls.

Until the day a soul goes missing, presumed stolen by ‘the other side’.

A new chapter in the war between heaven and hell is about to open. And Bobby is right in the middle of it, with only a desirable but deadly demon to aid him


It was a relief to see the dead kid's soul actually waiting there, dressed in a stained toga and tangled strings of shiny parade beads, probably looking pretty much as he had in life (although undoubtedly better than he did in death after falling headfirst off the roof of a four-floor building onto pavement.) He had one of those haircuts that always irritates me, one where the hair on either side has been brushed together in the middle like some kind of dolphin fin. It turns the wearer into a pinhead -- not a good look for anyone.

"Brady Tillotson," I said. "God loves you."

"What is this shit?" he asked, glaring as though I might have engineered his fall, although by the smashed bottles lying near the now shrouded body I guessed his passing was more likely what would be called "misadventure", which is legal shorthand for "death by stupid."

"You're dead, Brady. I'm sorry, but I'll do my best to make this go smoothly for you. I'm Doloriel, your heavenly advocate." I didn't see his guardian angel yet, or the Opposition, so I gave him a quick rundown of what was going to happen.

He seemed less than impressed. He was a big, handsome kid and looked and acted like he usually got his way by one means or another. "You're shitting me, right? I don't believe in any of that crap."

"Well, it believes in you, Brady, so it doesn't matter much what you think."

"Fuck that. I'm leaving." And he turned around and stumbled off into the darkness. Death usually sobered people right up but there were exceptions. I wasn't too worried about him getting away, though: one thing about being Outside is that it isn't a place, it's the timelessness that belongs to a place -- an eternal moment, I guess you'd say. It's tied to the people who are physically in that moment, observing it, so the farther away you get from what you could see during that original moment the less real it is, until eventually you're left in the dark with a few familiar sounds. Then, after the sounds go quiet, you usually find yourself hurrying back toward the main bit of the moment again. See, there's nowhere else to go. Otherwise, all the angels and devils would be popping in and out of Outside like it was a Star Trek beam-me-up device, spying on each other through the Zippers. It doesn't work that way. Anyhow, what I'm telling you is that Brady Tillotson wasn't going anywhere.

His guardian showed up a couple of moments later, a fizz of light named Gefen. Rotwood the prosecutor showed up shortly thereafter, a demon so old and gnarled he might have been painting Hell when the Devil himself first moved in. I'd appeared against Rotwood before -- he knew his stuff and some of the judges seemed to like his familiarity with the rules, but there were scarier prosecutors out there.

"This won't be easy," said Gefen quietly as the prosecutor conferenced with his own infernal version of a guardian angel.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"Because our client is a shit."

It was only a short time longer in that timeless place before the judge flared into our presence. It was my old buddy Xathanatron, the Principality Sam had argued in front of the night Clarence had first tagged along.

Angel Doloriel, it said to me, You Are Again Summoned To The Celestial City. There was a pause, then: It Seems I Must Add "Secretary To The Advocate" To The List Of My Titles.

This was a joke, boss-angel style, and so I laughed in a way I hoped sounded at least slightly sincere. "That's very funny, Your Honor. Thank you for passing the message along. I hope we won't keep you long tonight."

It Is All The Same -- The Interruption Of My Contemplation Has Already Occurred. I couldn't help noticing he still had that charming, democratic touch.

I finished huddling with Gefen just as my dead student stumbled back into our presence, toga flapping like the sails on the Marie Celeste. He looked a little more sober now but just as pissed off. The guardian angel's full report was longer than his initial remark but came to the same thing -- Brady Tillotson was a drunkard, a bully, and as close to being a date-rapist as you can get without actually stepping over the line and using drugs or gross physical force, but certainly the kind of guy who liked to get women too drunk to understand the issues of consent properly. He cheated on his studies -- he was a starting linebacker on the football team and people were always around to "help" him pass his classes -- he stole from friends, and was also one of those people who even years out of high school still got a real kick out of bullying other students. In other words, a shit. What made my job even tougher, though, was that he wasn't cooperating.

"I don't think any of this is right," he kept saying. "Who do I complain to? I didn't sign up for this. I don't fucking believe in any of it. It's crap. There aren't any angels. It's a lie."

The judge didn't say anything about this unending whine of complaint but it couldn't have been helping. I did everything I could to come up with mitigating circumstances -- Brady Tillotson's youth, his parents' divorce, the fact that junior high school and high school coaches and teachers had never disciplined him because he was a star athlete -- but I was not at my best because I'd taken a bit of a dislike to the kid myself. He would definitely be getting a long stretch in Purgatory, but I have to admit I thought he deserved it.

Near the end, when we'd summed up and Xathanatron had dropped into a glittering silence to consider the arguments, Brady suddenly turned to me, and for the first time all the anger and resistance had left his face.

"Oh my God," he said. "This is real. This is real! I'm dead!"

"I'm afraid so," I told him. "But things can get better than this..."

"What's going on here? Why are you...? Oh, Jesus -- shit, I'm never going to see my mom again." His face went slack with grief and a tear welled up and trembled on his lower lid. "Never..."

Xathanatron spoke. The sentence is Damnation, was all the judge said, then vanished.

Rotwood clapped his withered hands together once in pleasure before he also vanished. A dark vortex began to swirl around Brady Tillotson and although he fought against it, already he was beginning to be pulled apart and sucked downward.

"No!" he shouted, and his eyes were terrible. "Don't let them...! Please, please, please!" he screamed. "This isn't supposed to happen -- you were supposed to save me...! Aaah! Huuhhhh! Aaaaaaaah!" Brady's shrieks kept changing pitch because his face was melting, warping obscenely as he took on the shape he would wear Down There -- the horror that he would wear forever. Then he was gone.

* * *

I drove very slowly back across the city, stopping on the way at a bar I didn't remember ever seeing before and couldn't have found again if I had to. I downed two fast drinks, then realized I probably shouldn't push my luck, even though I badly needed to get way smashed, and get that way very soon. Too many nasty people were looking for me to risk ending up in a drunk tank or stumbling around in some parking lot in the dark. I got back into my car, stopped at a liquor store on the Camino Real and bought a bottle of vodka and a bag of ice, then headed back to my motel.

Before I got too obliterated I called in to the office and got Alice's voice mail.

"Tell the bosses that Bobby Dollar isn't coming into the Celestial City tonight," I instructed the silence. "Because I don't want to have to listen to any more lectures about doing my job. Tell them that. And tell them if they really want me they can come get me. Otherwise I'm going to stay here and keep doing what I'm doing, the best way I know how."

I was halfway through the bottle before I stopped hearing that college kid screaming like a burning child as he tumbled down into the darkness.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

If you enjoyed Leviathan Wakes and can't wait to get your hands on Caliban's War, you can download James S. A. Corey's The Butcher of Anderson Station: A Story of The Expanse for 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A new story set in the world of The Expanse. One day, Colonel Fred Johnson will be hailed as a hero to the system. One day, he will meet a desperate man in possession of a stolen spaceship and a deadly secret and extend a hand of friendship. But long before he became the leader of the Outer Planets Alliance, Fred Johnson had a very different name. The Butcher of Anderson Station.

This is his story


Given the size of his novels, I always wondered if Brandon Sanderson could write short fiction. Considering just how bloated The Way of Kings turned out to be, I doubted that short stories and novellas were a format that he would be comfortable with. And yet, Tad Williams, who is known for his doorstopper novels, also excels when it comes to short fiction.

I wasn't even aware that Subterranean Press would be publishing a Sanderson novella later this summer. My bad, I know. . . Not sure how this one got announced without my being aware of it. Be that as it may, as soon as Legion showed up in my mailbox, my curiosity got the better of me.

The premise had me hooked, so I had no choice but to give Legion a shot. They say that good things come in small packages, and in this case they are absolutely right. Legion is the opening chapter of what could well be Brandon Sanderson's most fascinating creation yet!

Here's the blurb:

Brandon Sanderson is one of the most significant fantasists to enter the field in a good many years. His ambitious, multi-volume epics (Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive) and his stellar continuation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series have earned both critical acclaim and a substantial popular following. In Legion, a distinctly contemporary novella filled with suspense, humor, and an endless flow of invention, Sanderson reveals a startling new facet of his singular narrative talent.

Stephen Leeds, AKA “Legion,” is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the story begins, Leeds and his “aspects” are drawn into the search for the missing Balubal Razon, inventor of a camera whose astonishing properties could alter our understanding of human history and change the very structure of society. The action ranges from the familiar environs of America to the ancient, divided city of Jerusalem. Along the way, Sanderson touches on a formidable assortment of complex questions: the nature of time, the mysteries of the human mind, the potential uses of technology, and the volatile connection between politics and faith. Resonant, intelligent, and thoroughly absorbing, Legion is a provocative entertainment from a writer of great originality and seemingly limitless gifts.

Stephen Leeds suffers or benefits from a very strange mental condition. He has the ability to create a variety of hallucinations possessing a vast array of personalities and skills. These personae live with Leeds, who was nicknamed Legion, and help/hinder him as he attempts to live a life as normal as a man with such a mental condition can hope for. I was afraid that having to deal with multiple personalities would be tricky, but Sanderson pulls it off with aplomb and this is what gives the novella such an engrossing "flavor."

The first person narrative is that of Stephen Leeds, of course. It works particularly well, and I have a feeling that a third person narrative would have robbed this work of everything which makes it special. Witnessing events through Leeds'e eyes allows readers to get better acquainted with the various personae he generated such as J.C., Tobias, Ivy, and the others. And when Leeds receive a photo of the Lone Cypress, a picture apparently taken decades before the invention of the camera, Leeds and his crew are set on a path which will take them to unexpected places.

The novella format keeps the pace moving, and all too quickly we reach the end, hoping for more. There is a lot more depth than meets the eye, and I have a feeling that Legion is a brief introduction to what should be an interesting and entertaining series. I also like the fact that Sanderson was ambitious, even if with a novella he couldn't work with the sort of scope he is used to. Still, seeking to prove or refute the very foundations of Christianity was a nice twist.

Here's to hoping that we'll have the opportunity to discover more about Stephen Leeds and his hallucinations in the near future, and that those new adventures will also be in the form of short stories or novellas. I feel that writing short fiction forces Brandon Sanderson to write with a much tighter focus, which makes for a more satisfying reading experience.

Legion should please Sanderson's legions (sorry, couldn't resist!) of fans and gain him some new followers. God knows I'm looking forward to what comes next!

By the way, this isn't the final cover art. . .

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title, check out the Subterranean Press website.

Win a copy of James S. A. Corey's CALIBAN'S WAR

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Orbit, I have two copies of James S. A. Corey's Caliban's War up for grabs! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

We are not alone.

The alien protomolecule is clear evidence of an intelligence beyond human reckoning. No one knows what exactly is being built on Venus, but whatever it is, it is vast, powerful, and terrifying.

When a creature of unknown origin and seemingly impossible physiology attacks soldiers on Ganymede, the fragile balance of power in the Solar System shatters. Now, the race is on to discover if the protomolecule has escaped Venus, or if someone is building an army of super-soldiers.

Jim Holden is the center of it all. In spite of everything, he's still the best man for the job to find out what happened on Ganymede. Either way, the protomolecule is loose and Holden must find a way to stop it before war engulfs the entire system.

CALIBAN'S WAR is an action-packed space adventure following in the footsteps of the critically acclaimed Leviathan Wakes

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "CALIBAN." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!